An Interview with Chris Morey:
Staring into the ABYSS
Dark Regions Press has been a staple of the dark fiction publishing scene for 30 years, releasing works from authors such as Clive Barker, Joe R. Lansdale, Rick Hautala, Tim Waggoner, and many more. Owner/publisher Chris Morey takes great pains to lead his team in not only finding great stories, but in presenting those stories in impeccably designed editions. His latest project is I AM THE ABYSS, an anthology featuring ten novellas focused on the afterlife. Recently, Morey took a few moments away from preparing for the launch of the book’s Kickstarter campaign to talk to Cemetery Dance Online.
(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)
CEMETERY DANCE ONLINE: Tell us a little about the origins of I AM THE ABYSS. How did you develop the concept?
CHRIS MOREY: I’ve long found the afterlife and different interpretations of the underworld fascinating and entertaining but never considered any of it probable. When I hear stories of some shared metaphysical realm that awaits us all after death I lose some interest because my brain instantly considers it fantasy.
But the thing is, I find stories revolving around the afterlife or based in the underworld of any religion/belief system extremely entertaining, so I started brainstorming a concept that could merge my love for the macabre fantasy of underworld fiction with a concept that I felt had real value and probability.
The concept derived is now what I consider the most probable scenario for an afterlife: in the seconds before all neural activity ceases, human consciousness inverts into its own subconscious reality, essentially a personal afterlife. This realm and the characters within it are entirely the making of the protagonist’s subconscious, making the stories painfully revealing and full of personal revelation.
Why did you choose to use Kickstarter for this project?
I AM THE ABYSS is a project that is certainly open for expansion with additional artwork, extras, etc. Something I’ve learned from my experience with crowdfunding campaigns is that they’re a great way to make a creative project get bigger and better than you thought possible. I’m hoping that happens again this time around. The campaign ends on September 22, 2015, so fingers crossed!
What is it about the art of Les Edwards that made him the right choice for I AM THE ABYSS?
I jumped over to the Shocklines forums to ask for recommendations on artists that are skilled at panoramic landscapes and cities. Artist Daniele Serra responded to my thread recommending Les Edwards. After looking at the incredible horror, fantasy and science fiction landscapes and scenes that Les has created over the years I didn’t hesitate contacting him about the project. Luckily he was interested and has already produced three fantastic pieces for the book. It’s an honor to be working with him.
How did you choose the authors? Was it an open submission process or did you invite the authors you wanted involved?
We did open submissions for about six months, but sadly I just didn’t feel that these submissions were strong enough for the book. While I initially planned on inviting roughly half of the authors and selecting the other half from the submissions inbox, I’ve ended up having to invite authors to fill every slot.
Some of the submissions sent to us during those six months were fairly strong, but I AM THE ABYSS contains ten newly written novellas just for this project and I don’t want any of those ten to stick out like a sore thumb. There’s no guarantee I’ll even accept the stories that invited authors turn in. It’s very important to me that all ten novellas are engaging, well written and are different enough from one another to give the anthology truly diverse perspectives.
What made the selected authors and stories the right ones for the project?
The authors I’ve invited I know to be skilled authors of horror and dark fantasy with strong creative vision. That’s one big qualifier for I AM THE ABYSS: I wanted to make sure authors with real creative strength populated the book. Some authors are more adept at thrillers, crime fiction… but authors like Jeffrey Thomas, Steve Rasnic Tem, Kealan Patrick Burke, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Michael Marshall Smith, Reggie Oliver, Laird Barron… these are authors with creative wells that run deep for horror, dark fantasy and weird fiction.
“The afterlife” – even one specified to take place “in your own mind,” as this book is concerned with – is an extremely broad topic for an anthology. What story surprised you the most with its interpretation of that concept?
It’s a broad topic in some ways but it also forces the author to write a certain kind of story, one of reflection and introspective exposition. The stories so far have amazed me with their balance of exciting horror and dark fantasy storytelling amidst extremely personal and emotional journeys. I couldn’t be happier with how this anthology is coming together.
It seems that there are still a lot of people with a narrow definition of “horror;” yet Dark Regions Press presents such a broad spectrum of authors and interpretations of the genre. Have we found horror’s limits yet? Does it have limits?
The way I define horror in terms of entertainment is simply fear intertwined with media. With fear being one of the most fundamental and manipulative aspects of the human condition, I’d say horror is pretty much limitless.
Aside from I AM THE ABYSS, what other projects is Dark Regions getting ready for us?
Dark Regions Press has some of its most exciting projects ever coming up. Clive Barker’s The Body Book is launching in early November; we’re publishing a new novella by Ramsey Campbell as the third book in my Black Labyrinth imprint illustrated by Santiago Caruso in early 2016; and we’re releasing a post-apocalyptic novel from Brian Keene in 2016 as well. There’s plenty more, but the best way to stay up-to-date is to sign up for our free e-mail newsletter.
Thanks for the great interview, Blu, and if your readers are interested in the I AM THE ABYSS campaign they can visit the Kickstarter page for more information.